Monday, April 12, 2010

Now what?

I'm standing at a career crossroads. And I don't know which way to go.

Beta readers have my manuscript, I've decided I cannot write a query letter if my life depended on it (and it kind of does, doesn't it?) and I have two WIPs sitting on my computer desktop. Unfinished and beckoning me.

What to do? I could bear down and rewrite my query for the umpteenth time. Or I could fire up one of those WIPs and get back to writing. Or I could do what I did today -- spend the morning reading and the afternoon watching baseball on television.

Here's some background:

One unfinished novel is the political one I started when I finished the first draft of The Devil You Don't Know. I was exhausted and purposefully began writing a completely different kind of novel, one with a more dispassionate -- almost remote -- voice. It's more plot-driven with less darkness (although it has some) and features a Main Character I would actually like to continue to explore. I envision it as the first in a series of political novels featuring Ian Cooper, the protag in this one.

The main reason I started it last fall was that I felt I had bitten off more than I could chew with DEVIL, which is big, complex, dark and features multiple points of view. I wrote DEVIL from the heart, exploring and plumbing the very depths of my life, my experiences and my fears. It was hard to write and yet cathartic in an odd kind of way.

The last thing I wanted to do was turn around and dive back into a similar book. The very thought of it sent shivers down my spine. So I invented Ian Cooper, sketched out a story one morning in a notebook, spent the next week doing bio sketches of all the characters, and started writing.

It was great fun. I was writing in a style very different from the one I used to write DEVIL. It's not exactly light-hearted, but it's certainly more lively, less deadly serious.

But at some point, about 14,000 words into it, I got some feedback on DEVIL from a couple of early alpha readers. They loved it and wanted more of the same. Then the book editor who went through DEVIL also liked the story, its depth and its complexity. She also mentioned some kind of a continuation.

I balked. I did not want to write another book like DEVIL. And I certainly didn't want to write a damned sequel, since sequels usually suck and anyway, why start a sequel to a book that might not ever get published?

But I started to wonder if perhaps I am meant to write the kind of books that wear me out, that exhaust me in every way possible. Maybe I'm not meant to write light-hearted, plot-driven series books.

So I ditched the political novel back in January. I spent several days working up a story, sketching out characters, etc. And then it occurred to me what I was doing.

I was writing the sequel to The Devil You Don't Know!

Sure, I think I've found an original way to write a sequel, in case the first book never sells. See, the new one starts several months earlier than its prequel, and eventually dovetails with that plot about midway through the novel. It has a whole new cast of characters, although the old characters appear at the midpoint. It's even set in a different place -- Exeter, N.H.

Of course, it ends up in the same place as DEVIL. And it's designed to wrap up the story completely. And if I craft it right, it could stand on its own.

But now that I'm waiting for beta reports to come in -- and dealing with a big-time case of the nervous crazies in the process -- I'm wondering what to do. Should I go with my first instinct and finish the politcal novel? Or dive into the bigger sequel and hope for the best?

What would you do?


  1. I'm all about sequels. I'm sorta on the same path with my current WIP. Sequel!!!!


  2. My suggestion is to go with whatever story you feel like writing right now. If you feel like you need a break from the DEVIL type mind frame for a while, then play around with the political one. Even if an agent picks up DEVIL and begins shopping it, and urging you for the sequel you can go back and pick it up then. The fact that you already have an outline means you're in a good place.

    Besides, doing something completely different will help keep your brain fresh when your betas start coming back with their thoughts and suggestions.

    That's just my $0.02

  3. Hey Terry.

    You know what to do, so do it.
    It really doesn't matter what you WANT to do, you know what you need to do.

    You came full circle in the post. You answered your own question. Stop dickin' around and get to it.

    Your Pal ;)

  4. Truthfully Terry, I think you should write a little tiny novella, maybe even a long short story, in a romance genre. Go completely off your usual path, no dark, no gritty, just spin a tale of love and happily ever after with a crazy plot and a twist that no one saw coming but is light-hearted and totally fun.

    It will give you some breathing room, take you out of your comfort/uncomfort zone and make you reach for something you could care less about. Because it's fun. And it's what you need right now. I say romance because who doesn't like to fall in love right?

    As for your query, hook, conflict, motivation, goal. That's what you need in 250 words or less. If you're still having trouble, shoot it to me, I'll give you a hand. Seriously. Sometimes it takes an outsider to pull out what you have and make it agentable. (Is that a word?)

  5. I agree with Tracy. There's nothing saying you can't write both. It may take longer to finish each of them, but I have a feeling that won't matter. After a period of time, one of them will take over. It'll be the one that calls to you to write it even if it's the 'other' story's turn that day. Pay attention to that little voice. It'll give you the answer.

  6. Personally, I think you should spend every waking minute for the next couple of months trying to get The Devil published. I would get the query letter done (if you truly can't do it, find someone who can, even if you have to pay them), call agents, send letters to authors you like and respect, talk to other writers, exhaust any possible action that will get your book published and into stores. Your timing is great, because Fall is the big season for books, so start beating down doors.

  7. Don't let amateurs critiquing your query letter dissuade you. If their advice sounds right, listen... but honestly there are a thousand ways to write a query letter, and they're all right... depending on the agent.

    How about if you write the sequel to TDYDK, but on days when you feel blocked, write the other one. Do one for fun, one for challenge. No reason you can't do both.

  8. Now what? You carry on. That's what. Someone has to do it. It may as well be you!

    Writing a query letter can be a dark place. I know all too well.

    I'm right behind you.

  9. Pft. Crossroads? You've finished the edits. Big whoop. Now query. Revise again. Revise again. Send out feelers. Test the water. Revise again. Blog, find readers. Find agents. Follow the publishing news. Read agents' info for your perfect fit. Make a spreadsheet. Give up the perfect fit. They're too busy for the likes of you. See? You're just getting started. Editing was the easy part.

    And I agree with Anne. Write a mini-romance - IN SPACE. That way, it's a whole new distracting world for you.